To throw my personal experience in to the mix:
I was employed straight out of year 11 (16) by my school on a temp basis, I did try Sixth form but I preferred working so turned my temp contract to full time and haven't really looked back since. I've moved on to a bigger and better job and I realised to progress further I'm going to need qualifications, if only to tick the "has a degree box" as too many employers see those without a degree as unintelligent school drop outs and ditch the application. So I'm signed up with the Open Uni doing an Open degree and it is great. I work and earn money and in my spare time (only lunch breaks at the moment) I work towards my degree.
The Open Degree is wonderful as you just mix and match what interests you and you can change your mind on what subjects to follow. If you enjoy working I highly recommend doing an OU degree, it will give you the quals you need whilst doing what you love :)
On the downside nearly all my mates are at uni so my social group has diminished drastically, and like others have said you don't get the experiences that come with going to uni......but you don't get the debt either.
Robz what course did you do with the open uni?
Just a random mix, I read through all the courses and just picked ones that sounded interesting/could benefit me in life and give me a good grounding, I didn't want to focus on any one topic in particular and I avoided IT topics as I do enough at work and fancied a change of scenery.
(I am being cheeky and intentionally choosing ones without exams as they just stress me out and I like being chilled xD)
Always an interesting debate this!
I'm in the "didn't go" camp, having worked for a year after A-Levels I felt like I was doing something of value in work rather than feeling completely pointless while in 6th form. Got the grades (more A's than you could shake a stick at) and actually went to Queen Mary for about 4 days on a Masters course for Electronic Engineering but never felt like it was what I wanted to do tbh.
At the time I was told how I'd get nowhere and that you could only get jobs with a Degree etc etc... looking back in hindsight now it seems I made the right call as there's graduates than you can shake a stick at now and many with good degrees from good Unis struggling in the jobs market.
Personally I value the experience and professional networking I've been able to do in that time, also added a few "soft skill" certs like ITIL that can only help as time goes on. Granted it does mean certain careers are closed off but they're mostly ones I wouldn't want to do anyway or places that I wouldn't want to work at (if a company is elitist enough to assume that only graduates can have the skills regardless of what area the degree is in then I wouldn't want to work there anyway)
Also depends if you don't mind the debt... some may say as far as loans go it's a good one but starting out your working life with a £10k+ millstone around your neck isn't the way I wanted to go... personal choice at the end of the day. One thing you will probably miss out on is the social aspect with other young people, especially if you go into a career in IT :p
uni degree.... I would use it only for one thing: visa application to Australia :D but you need to keep in mind that some places require degree
Different strokes for different folks. I started a degree when I was 18 but I hated my time at uni. I didn't like the course and to be honest I don't think I'm very good at learning using the university methodology. I eventually dropped out and entered employment. Sometimes I regret going but I think I would have regretted it more if I hadn't at least tried.
14 years later, I'm doing OK for myself, I work in a job that I mostly enjoy and I'm paid a relatively good wage. Maybe things would have been different if I'd stayed on, maybe not.
Even if you do choose uni, i would suggest self financing a CCNA as it will teach you an awful lot of side information that is a excellent preparation for uni, and also for other courses. Certainly friends of mine have struggled with aspects of the MS courses having not done the CCNA and therfore lacking the lower level understanding of the way networks really work before MS puts a shiny wrapping on them!
The KEY point to note:
YOU have to be happy with your decision, doesn't matter what anyone else says or does do what is right for you, don't live life with regrets and "what if's" :)
I'm in the camp of 'tried it but didn't complete' (mainly due to running out of money, but I would say that there are many other equivalent life experiences if you are looking for that side of things over and above of gaining the qualification.
This will range for volunteer work through to joining HM Forces.
Volunteer work ... there are many organisations who are itching for volunteers to work with them and the only problem is that if you are also claiming JSA then you have to still be looking for paid work and be ready to take up employment at short notice (IIRC 1 week).
The forces ... I know that this can seem a difficult choice when we are a country still involved in many arenas of conflict. For some there are ethical considerations, and this is before you get to the idea of risk of life and limb ... but as many members here can tell you, it is one hell of an experience. The difference nowadays is that I would advise people that it doesn't have a lot of the good perks it used to have (the 3 tour rotation of ceremonial / active duty / training and admin, darned good pension) but it still gives you access to a wide range of training (both trade related and for personal progress) and some experiences you are unlikely to get anywhere else.
I am now in the position that I am in a good job and had to worked hard to get here, but also took some risks when lucky breaks came up. It would have been made a heap easier with a degree and I am slowly but surely rectifying that with an Open Degree via the OU.
It does open doors, but they can be opened by other means as well ... sometimes with a bit of lateral thinking and by working that bit harder than others.
I didnt fancy going to uni last year when i finished my A-Levels (IT, Business Studies and Sociology). I was a bit confused on where to go instead of uni. I looked on the internet for apprenticeships in the field of work i wanted (IT). I got an interview with a company dealing with apprenticeships and got a place to train as a ITP (IT Practitioner/IT Technician). However, this was only a Level 2 NVQ (aquiviliant to GCSE grades) so once i finished the 6 month course, i decided to go ahead and do my Level 3 NVQ in the same field. I got to choose an external placement to continue the course. I chose to go back to my secondary school to become one of their technicial support staff and all has been ok from there.
Apprenticeships build up your experience to add to your CV and to make you more employable as well as earning you a bit of dosh while you train :)
Don’t feel pressured into going to Uni. I’ve been twice, spending 5 years there, and it hasn’t done me much good. I’m over 40 now and think with hindsight that I could have done something more productive with those 5 years than go to Uni.
Uni is only good for those who know what they want and that a degree is the way to get it. Very few people at the age of 18 do – I didn’t. I won’t be pushing my children to go.
I like to think I’m a bit of an academic type. I enjoy learning and studying for exams – I’ve just never been able to translate all that education into well-paid work. What I’m saying is that a degree is not a conveyor belt to a wonderful job or life.
When at Uni, I shared digs with 2 accountancy students. I also had a friend who was working by other means to become a chartered accountant. Ten years later and my friend had no degree, but did have his own accountancy firm and was doing rather well, while the two with degrees were employees in large accountancy firms. After 20 years, my friend has branches all over northern England. The two graduates are probably still employees.
My brother left school at 16 with one O-level, he became an electrician and since then has always earned much more than me. He sometimes asks me why I spent all that time at Uni, and I still don't have a convincing answer.
a) probably not. If the thought of it "doesn't really interest" you then it sounds like you'll be making the same mistake I did. (I didn't really want to go, I just wanted to avoid working for a living - big mistake). Wait until you're older and more experienced, then you may decide it's right for you.
b) Go for technical certs. Start with easier ones and work up. To start with, stick to ones directly relevant to the work you do - you'll find them easier and more useful to your CV. I started with CompTIA A+ and N+, then worked up through the MCPs to get MCSA, but they're superseded now so I might go for MCITP, or ITIL - I don't know yet.
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school in 1982 and ended up at uni studying accountancy. Luckily I was at Lancaster and for reasons I still don't understand, my equally weighted 3rd subject was Computing. You have to bear in mind that the first computer was introduced to my school in my very last term!
To cut a long story short, my marks reflected my interest and I majored in Computing and have been in the industry ever since.
Would I recommend uni? Yes 100%! I grew up at uni.
Does it suit everyone? No.
My son is quite likely to end up in IT, but I have sneaking suspicion he'll choose an apprenticeship. His sister is hoping to go to uni this year.
You have to do what's right for you, but please don't let fear of the unknown put you off uni.
All three of my children have gone to uni but for different reasons.
As far as I am concerned, there are only two reasons for going to uni - one, because you need the qualification to do the thing you want to do, or two, because you love the subject and just want to study it - there must be a place for learning for learnings sake.
My daughter is doing Product Design Engineering because she really wants to design and make things in the real world. My son, on the other hand, is studying History, Politics and Political Philosophy for the sheer pleasure of the intellectual pursuit.
My eldest, however, chose a subject he quite enjoyed at school and has studied Engineering Geology and Geotechnics - but he has no real love for it, has struggled a lot and I wonder if he should never have gone in the first place.
I asked him last week what he really wanted to do and he said that he would love to be a mechanic but there was no money in it. He is too old for an apprenticeship now...
If uni is free and there are jobs then I would always advise going, but nowadays I think it is sensible to only go if you are clear about what you love and what you want and how to go about getting it.
BUT there are very few jobs or apprenticeships out there now and it is hard to get anything at aged 18 - at least round here anyway.